Phase II: Machine-specific Risk Assessment
Machines or processes scoring high enough in the initial machine guarding review are considered intolerable hazards. These machines need an additional,
more exhaustive review—a machine-specific risk assessment. This dives deep,
details specific tasks, identifies hazards and their causes, and helps bring about
an engineered safeguarding solution. Unlike in the initial assessment, reviewers
conducting a machine-specific risk assessment may observe a single machine
over several hours or even days.
The task-based risk assessment is incorporated in the ANSI B11 family of general industry machine safety standards through the ANSI B11.0, Safety of Machinery—General Requirements and Risk Assessment. The assessment marries
hazards to tasks and applies a matrix of probability of occurrence and severity of
harm. It connects specific tasks to specific hazards. These task-hazard pairs are
then assigned a level of risk: high, medium, low, and negligible (see Figure 2).
The goal is to move every task’s risk level to low or negligible, but the reality
is that every task has at least some risk. Achieving “zero risk” is simply unattainable, which is why you won’t find “zero risk” anywhere on the matrix.
This level of assessment requires a collaborative team that brings together
multiple perspectives. At the very least, this team should include a representative from upper management, the floor supervisor, a machine operator, and an
experienced outside safety systems integrator.
Each plays a specific and independent role. Upper management must emphasize safety’s importance and commit resources and funding to safeguarding. As discussed later, without buy-in from the top, any safeguarding program
is doomed to fail.
The floor supervisor knows how things actually work in the shop. Many safeguards, once implemented, impede work flow. That’s because the numerous
operational variables, best understood by the supervisor, were not incorporated
into the safeguarding system design. The floor supervisor must voice his opinion about whether a safeguarding scheme will impede or enhance throughput.
More than anyone else, machine operators understand the intricacies of each
machine and how it fits into the manufacturing process. Their input is invaluable. Ultimately, they are the ones who must use the safeguarding system successfully and not be compelled to circumvent it.
Finally, the safety systems integrator brings expertise in the applicable standards and regulations. This person also has the technology and product knowledge necessary to develop the best safeguarding for the applications at hand.
Most safety integrators also can be relied upon to do a professional and correct
installation and retrofit.
Phase III: Hazard Mitigation Implementation
After they have identified and assessed the risk of these task-hazard pairs, team
members then conceive of and then implement safeguarding strategies. To do
this properly, the group needs to understand what exactly defines successful
safeguarding. Specifically, a safeguard must:
• Provide appropriate operator protection. Machine guarding needs to prevent a person from accessing a hazard from above, below, around, or through
the guard. A safeguard that does not prevent access fully gives the operator a
false sense of security, which is worse than having no guard at all. If a machine
requires two operators, or an operator and a helper, the safeguarding needs to
protect both individuals.
• Comply with applicable standards and regulations. These include OSHA,
ANSI, and ISO standards and regulations. OSHA regulations are the law. ANSI
and ISO standards are industry best practices typically referred to by OSHA in an
inspection or accident investigation, as OSHA understands that it cannot keep
up with technological advances.
• Conform to the machine manufacturer’s safeguarding instructions. A
machine must be used as the manufacturer intended, within the environmental
parameters specified, and maintained as instructed in the supplier’s manual.
Good machine maintenance ensures a well-running, safer machine.
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• Comply with the safety device manufacturer’s directions. Safety components are only as effective as the reliability of the circuit to which they are connected. This is referred to as control reliability, and it includes not just a specific
circuit, but the entire system. When a machine is told to stop, it should do so
reliably. Safety device manufacturers typically give detailed instructions on how
their components should be added into a system. These instructions must be
followed to ensure the integrity of the safeguarding.
• Not impede production. Safeguarding that slows the manufacturing process is not successful. The assessment team must understand the application
thoroughly and look at the entire process. If tasks are eliminated, so are their
• Make it easier for the operator to work with, not around. Safeguarding
that makes the operator’s job more difficult, or creates other hazards, will be
discarded shortly after implementation. This is why it is so important for the assessment team to understand the application.
Making the Financial Case
Proper hazard assessments should be at the heart of any safety program. After
all, how can you make an operation safer if you really don’t know how safe (or
unsafe) it currently is?
Assessments, along with training and investments in safety devices, require
time and money—and therein lies the problem. When cutting costs, many organizations target safety. Safety processes compete for the same dollars as other
programs that generate revenue.
And revenue is the key. It is imperative that a safety program be viewed as a
revenue generator. Making a strong business case can convince management
that a good safety program will produce a positive return on investment. This
approach makes the case that safety is an investment that generates a return,
not simply a cost of doing business.
Communicating With Senior Management
One obstacle people in safety encounter is in the language they use. They talk
about frequency or severity of injury, OSHA recordable injuries, and lost time.
Managers don’t always speak in this language. They want to know how all this
relates to operations. How does it benefit the company’s production? How does
it relate to profit?